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Real Estate Photo Licensing For Builders And For Use on Social Media

Published: 21/04/2016
By: larry

copyrightCarol in Texas asks:

My question concerns copyright legalities for Social Media. My agent client wants to post my photos various places, as she can legally do under my Terms and Conditions, so long as it is to market a property.  The Agent client has a partnership with a local high-end home builder and also wishes to post my photos on said home builder's FB page as part of her marketing strategy for his homes.  Agent client believes this should be ok since she has paid me for use of the photos.  Where is the line between using the photos for her own marketing strategy and using the photos to benefit the builder?  On the one hand, it seems to be within her rights to do this; however, the builder is going to benefit from her doing so by being able to use the FB page as a pseudo-portfolio gallery.  WWYD?

In the case you describe where an agent represents a builder, the builder is the client (homeowner) so it certainly makes sense for here to use your photos to market the builders products.
Here are some considerations to consider to refine your license agreement:
  1. Builders are very special clients. I think it makes sense to charge agents that represent builders more for photo licensing because builder marketing is going to be much wider and extensive than marketing other property. When my wife represented a builder, we would use photos from a model home to sell the neighborhood for several years.
  2. Agents posting to FB is a different subject. Back in January, we talked about the fact that you loose control of your copyright when your photos are posted to FB and other social media sites because of the terms of service of most social media sites. This is a tough problem because agents expect to be able to post photos to FB and other social media. If you want to keep control of your photo rights you need to in some way restrict posting to social media. Perhaps just license exterior shots to be posted on social media or just some selection of photos from a shoot be posted to social media. Otherwise, you loose control.
So, I think you are correct to be concerned about both of these issues. What I would do, is charge more when builders are involved and restrict specifically which photos from a shoot can be posted to social media.



4 comments on “Real Estate Photo Licensing For Builders And For Use on Social Media”

  1. It's up to the copyright holder to determine what package of uses they are including when licensing to an RE agent and make sure that those usages are explained clearly to the customer and in writing.

    I license images to the agent for the purpose of marketing the home in the images until it is sold or the agent loses the listing and for the agent to market their services. The license is non-transferable.

    Under the license I grant, the builder would be required to purchase a separate license as their usage has nothing to do with the sale of the particular home or the marketing of the agent's services. The license would also be priced higher to the builder for the usages that they would want. I would be happy to pay the agent a commission on the first sale of licenses to the builder.

    I really don't like Social Media, especially FB. Their business (as stated by M. Zuckerberg) is to gather personal information and sell it. Their TOS, that nobody pays attention to, gives them the right to use, transfer, sell, modify or adapt any media (photos, video, text) posted to their service. Without a 3 day reread, those conditions may also apply to media posted in "private" forums. Since they all redefine what is private and public routinely, there is no telling when certain pieces of "private" information will be made public. I only license a few images for my customers to use on Social Media sites as a teaser to draw people to their own web sites.

    I would charge much higher licensing fees to anybody that wants to use more than a couple of images on a Social Media site as I might wind up competing with that site for stock sales on the very same images.

  2. Majority of the time for me the builder is my client and I allow the builder to provide the images to an agent for marketing the home for sale. I can only remember two times that the agent was my client and I restricted the use to the agent only. Both times the builder's paid for a separate license to use the images.

  3. We allow agents to use our photos in many ways once they pay, but what we suggest is they post only our virtual tour link, like, or even our Call2Action photo with a link to the tour into Facebook, etc and do it on their Facebook business page. If they do this:

    1. It is just the tour link, the marketing text and the default photo that shows on FB, with any intro text they add.
    2. It creates an incentive for someone to click out to the virtual tour, so you can then engage in lead capture and shows them the other greate content, like 2D and 3D floor plans that are on the tour.
    3. Simplifies the process - you just click the Facebook share button on the tour or paste in the URL and they can add a few lines of their own text
    4. Once they put it on their business page, they can boost the post, which is buying an ad and they can target it to ANYONE in a specific area. They do not have to be friends or like your page. Those that like your page will see it but the boosted post will show up based on your targeting parameters.

    Copyright is hard with listings as agents need the photos for the MLS and once they are in the MLS, they are going to go EVERYWHERE. If you think you can maintain the copyright on those images and prevent the use on the multitude of real estate sites, then I think you should not be in the business of taking photos for listings. The reality is they are going to be used everywhere.

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